What happened to the P30 million fund for Paquibato farmers whose crops were ravaged by rat infestation in 2011?

As if smelling a dead rat, this question was posted by Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte in his Facebook account last week which could revive a Davao City Council resolution calling for a probe on how the multi-million calamity fund was used.

The investigation could place in the hot seat city councilor Leonardo Avila, who handled the fund when he was officer-in-charge of the City Agriculturist Office (CAO).

The Davao City Council that called for an investigation and an order for Avila, then the CAO caretaker, to account for the fund intended for victims of rat infestation that ravaged farmlands in upland Paquibato district was approved in early 2012.

A year before in early 2011 as farmers lost their crops to the rat attack, the city council declared Paquibato under state of calamity and approved a P30 million calamity fund, upon request of Avila.

Victims of the massive rat attack were the farmers of barangays Salapawan, Lumiad, Colasas, Tapak, Mapula, Paradise Embac, Fatima, and Pandaitan. all in Paquibato district.

A year after on March 2012, the city council passed the resolution, calling for an investigation into how the fund was handled, following a privilege speech by then city councilor Melchor Quitain, chair of the committee on ethics and good governance. In his speech, Quitain said Avila and CAO failed to liquidate the fund, a year after the rat infestation.

Quitain was re-elected to the city council in 2013 but resigned shortly after the election to take the post of City Administrator.

Despite the resolution, the city council has not been reported to have conducted an investigation.

There has also been no report that Avila and CAO had already liquidated the fund.

Duterte, a city councilor when the fund was approved, apparently knew that there had been no investigation conducted nor was there closure to the controversy, having raised the query on the fund in his Facebook account.

In his privilege speech calling for the probe, Quitain said that the resolution/ordinance that declared Paquibato under state of calamity and appropriated the P30 million calamity fund required that CAO must submit a monthly disbursement report to the city council.
Quitain said this provision was never followed.

The City Hall social services office had said the rat infestation affected nearly 5,000 people and ravaged crops worth P30 million in about 2,330 hectares.

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